Investigating how science works.

Our research team treats science—and the production and integration of scientific knowledge—as a fundamentally social practice that incorporates a variety of actors, allies, and technologies.

To investigate how science works, the project team uses ethnographic and humanistic methods from anthropology, geography, and science and technology studies (STS).



Ethnographic Methods: Techniques of collecting and analyzing information to make sense of social and cultural practices.

Humanistic Methods: Techniques that examine how people process and document the human experience. Humanities research employs methods that are historical, interpretive, and analytical in nature.

Science and Technology Studies (STS): An interdisciplinary field that examines the institutions, practices, dynamics, and outcomes of science and technology and their entanglement with society and social order.

How’s it being done?

Because visual thinking is so important, our team is testing and refining a qualitative technique called the Visual Q-Method, that promises to generate exciting insights about knowledge integration.

The process of crafting knowledge, we argue, is a visual practice mediated by technologies that allow scientists to ‘see’ and integrate different objects of concern—even tiny things like microbes—and scale them up to new levels.

We hope the tools we develop in this project will be useful in understanding all types of knowledge-making practices beyond this project.

Where’s it located?

The Brazilian Amazon and the United States.

This project is a multi-sited ethnography. Our team travels between the Brazilian Amazon and the U.S. to interact with and observe participants at their home offices and laboratories. The project also follows participants at their field sites in the Tapajós National Forest near Santarém and at a private reserve near Porto Velho, Rondônia.

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What questions are being asked?

The project is asking several questions in the interest of discovering how do we know what we know? The questions include:

  • How are scientists from different countries and disciplinary cultures collaborating to produce knowledge about environmental change?
  • What barriers or pathways emerge in knowledge integration, and why?
  • What are the implications of producing and integrating knowledge about large, globally significant regions—like the Amazon—through small-scale objects, like the microbe?
  • How might learning about globally significant regions via small scale objects inform the actions we take as a society?

What are the goals of the project?



Our team hopes to identify pathways for more effective and equitable practices of environmental knowledge integration and interdisciplinary science.


The Americas

Our team aims to produce useful empirical insights about knowledge production in a region (the Amazon basin) where scientific exploration, expertise, and knowledge extraction have been mired in political controversy for centuries.


In House

Our goal is to train students in research design, problem solving, data collection and analysis, and writing for scientific publications. Students are the future—we hope to develop students’ skills and capacities to advance a workforce of critical, creative thinkers ready to tackle global problems.

What are the projected outcomes?

The project will produce:

  • Several publications in peer-reviewed journals and popular press
  • A white paper synthesizing best practices in interdisciplinary science
  • A public exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.